How to identify and foster the best talent in insurance?
How many times have you evaluated an employee and reached the conclusion that they are not performing at their full potential? Far too many employees either plateau or burn out before they can reach their peak, leaving them dissatisfied with their jobs and costing their organization money.
There are some characteristics that peak performers across all fields—from sports teams to insurance operations—tend to have in common. But rather than falling into the trap of considering these characteristics as innate, it is management’s job to encourage these characteristics by setting the tone for a company culture that lifts people to their peak.
6 essential characteristics
- Accepts full responsibility—Peak performers accept responsibility equally for successes and failures. It is crucial that managers set the correct tone for failures, as this will dramatically influence how the company deals with failure as a community. Failure is acceptable; negligence is not. A manager can’t be overly accepting of repeated failure, as this will create a lack of respect within the company. However, failures must be treated as learning experiences, as a manager that is overly harsh toward failure will likely provoke finger-pointing, resentment, and a lack of transparency.
- Feels confident about abilities—Employees invariably want to feel good at their jobs, and those that do perform at a higher level than those that feel unqualified. A manager’s job is to encourage employees, making use of the correct balance of praise and constructive criticism. A manager who can strike this balance will find that his or her employees feel confident and comfortable, engendering innovation and a dedication to performing at the highest possible level. By contrast, an overly critical manager may find employees shutting down, and a manager that liberally hands out empty praise may have to contend with too much ego.
- Stays motivated—There is little hope of accomplishing peak performance long-term without motivation. There are two types of motivation at play—personal motivation and professional motivation. Personal motivation moves employees to perform well because of the learning and experience that they can receive with a company, which may lead to career development either within or outside of the company. Professional motivation is goal oriented, and stems from a clear company vision and path. An effective manager will be able to utilize both types of motivation in order to get the most out of his or her employees.
- Practices essential skills—The more time your employees devote to their core skills, the better they will be able to perform them. This means that effective managers should concentrate on business process improvement as much as possible, in order to free up their employees’ time for revenue-generating activity. Any mundane task that high-level employees are forced to perform is waste, not only for the business, but also for the individual. In some cases, process standardization can help to alleviate the time commitment that essential, mundane tasks represent. In other cases, the correct solution may be selective use of outsourcing operations to free up employees to focus on their core skills.
- Identifies solutions—Peak performers tend to be those who consistently look for better ways of accomplishing goals. As a manager, you may find employees come to you with problems in hand, looking for solutions. While this may lead to frustration on your part, it is important to identify this trend for what it is—an attempt by the employee to improve the company that he or she works for. Managers should encourage employees to bring proposed solutions to these problems. This can both improve efficiency in insurance operations and make the employee feel valued. Employees who bring effective solutions should be rewarded appropriately for their efforts.
- Grit—Even the highest performing employees will occasionally encounter professional difficulties, either as a result of something in the workplace or something at home. An effective manager knows how to identify an employee in need. Some may respond well to a conversation about the issue, while others may need a less direct acknowledgement of their challenges. In the latter case, encouragement that is unconnected with the issue at hand or a temporary reduction in workload may be more appropriate.
The most effective insurance operations managers recognize that most, if not all, of these characteristics aren’t just traits you hire for. They must be developed in a workforce with management strategies and company culture. With a commitment to supporting these characteristics in a workforce, a manager can significantly increase the performance of his or her employees.